Yesterday, the speaker at our Bead Society of Orange County meeting was Jim Stevens, a scrimshander and martial artist.
What’s so inspiring about Jim? He’s legally blind.
As a soldier in Vietnam, he was wounded in the head, which left behind shrapnel, causing migraines and finally a stroke that left him with only a pin dot of sight. It took him 7 years and the help of his daughters to accept and overcome the limitations of his blindness, all the while raising his 5 children as a single parent after his wife left the family. Anneliese, Barbara and I met Jim in the parking lot of the Bowers, accompanied by Melinda, who was his Bead Society “official chauffeur” and chatted for a few minutes before going into the museum. It was only when we saw him walking into the auditorium with his white cane that we realized he was blind!
He gave a fact filled talk on the history, legalities and art techniques of scrimshaw and brought along a few examples of the different types of materials, such as whales teeth (very, very heavy--imagine a mouthful of those!), bone and ivory. The ivory Jim uses is mostly ancient wooly mammoth, which is not prohibited in any way since it’s not from living animals, endangered or otherwise. He gets a lot of this material from native Alaskans, who make a living digging for this type of fossil ivory.
He creates beautiful powder horns and carvings as well as his scrimshaw art.
He’s a Kennedy Center honoree, a multiple award winner and his work is collected all over the world.
You can read more about him and his art here, on his website:
Here’s an article about his mastery of the martial arts, which he didn’t mention yesterday but
I find equally as interesting (check out the first 7 months of his training!):
Also, there’s an article on him in the current issue of the Saturday Evening Post (May/June 2011),
which I’m going on the hunt for as soon as I finish the post!